Doctor of History, Full Professor, Makarenko Sumy State Pedagogical University, Chief Reseach Fellow, Institute of World History, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Abstract. The article puts forward an opinion that the current crisis of world order requires reverting to discovering the reasons of World War I.
The author states that in 1914, a majority of decision-makers believed they had a dominant strategy; thus, the policy they followed was the best, irrespective of another party’s actions. The complicated task of clarifying the concerns and intentions of others as well as predicting the aggravation of the situation as a result of their actions was not taken into account. The quest for minimising responsibility and increasing comfort while taking bellicose measures hindered the realisation of the fact that a more cautious strategy was a safer option.
The military and political alliances, including the Entente Cordiale (the Triple Entente) and the Triple Alliance (after Italy’s withdrawal, the Central Powers), the defence purposes enshrined in secret agreements notwithstanding, were established for waging wars but not for maintaining peace by mutual containment. Fragile arrangements between the two alliances did not allow them to prevent opponents or partners from unleashing the war and subsequently halt hostilities after the failure of a range of envisaged strategic operations.
The states continuously threatened each other with their actions, and repeated attempts to create the impression of a threat of aggression, although without any intention to use military force, undermined international stability. The efforts of European leaders constituted a diplomatic game, as the parties bluffed and sought to play trump cards they never had. The initial stakes, particularly colonial and territorial claims of actors, were negligible as compared with the incommensurably higher payback – the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, German, and Ottoman empires, and the two totalitarian revolutions in the 20th-century Europe, Russian (Bolshevist) and German (Nazi). The author concludes that it was not allied obligations that prompted states to choose a certain side; rather, each country’s government decided to join the war on their own, guided by spurious ‘national interests’.
Keywords: World War I, Entente, military and political alliances, Europe, 20th century.
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2. Ibid., pp. 350-351.
3. ‘Avstro-germanskiy dogovor 1879 g. o soyuze’ [The 1879 Austro-German Dual Alliance], in Shatsillo, V. (ed.). (2005). Mirovyye voyny XX veka, vol. 2. Pervaya mirovaya voyna: dokumenty i materialy [World War I: Documents and Materials], 2nd ed. Moscow: Nauka, p. 8. [in Russian]
4. Ibid., p. 7.
5. Ibid., p. 8.
7. Ibid., p. 7.
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11. Ibid., p. 367.
12. Ibid., p. 368.
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14. Ibid., p. 10.
15. Ibid., p. 9.
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21. Ibid., p. 489.
22. Ibid., p. 505.
23. Ibid., p. 507.
24. Ibid., p. 509.
25. Ibid., p. 510.
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30. Shatsillo, Mirovyye voyny, pp. 10-13.
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32. Ibid., p. 97, 220.
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37. Kennedy, The Rise and Fall, p. 443.
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47. Ibid., pp. 180-181.
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51. Takman, Avgustovskiye pushki, p. 195.
52. Ibid., p. 197.
53. ‘Soglasheniye Rossii, Anglii i Frantsyi o nezaklyuchenii separatnogo mira 23 avgusta (5 sentyabrya) 1914 g.’ [Declaration of the Triple Entente 23 August (5 September) 1914)], in Shatsillo, Mirovyye voyny, p. 344. [in Russian]
54. Van Evera, S. (1999). Causes of War: Power and the Roots of Conflict. London: Cornell University Press, p. 219. [in English]
55. Hastings, Pervaya mirovaya, p. 83.
56. Ibid., p. 84.
57. Jervis, R. (2017). Perception and Misperception in International Politics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, pp. 86-87.